Often times, facilities managers don't pay much attention to the boiler plants in their buildings. In most plants with large boilers, there is a chief engineer, boiler operator, or other person qualified and trained to safely maintain and operate the boiler at all times.
Even with all that attention, boilers can still fail due to neglect. With a little oversight, however, facilities managers can protect themselves and their buildings from getting burned by boiler failure:
* Match the best equipment available with the type of service and fuel required. The boiler should meet or exceed facility needs such as boiler type (water or steam); and burner type (single- or dual-fuel). This is especially important in planning boiler retrofits.
* Verify proper boiler installation, including all necessary controls and safety equipment. Have the installation checked out by a qualified person and annually by an insurance company's boiler service representative. A boiler start-up checklist should be used, one that indicates all tests performed have met the equipment manufacturer's specifications.
* Specify system inspection as a part of the boiler contract, before acceptance by a qualified boiler commissioning agent, an authorized insurance company, state or local boiler inspection. Many times, a qualified person outside the physical plant is retained to perform these inspections upon putting a new boiler into service. This person can locate possible problems before they become serious ones to the owner. This will also help ensure that all ordinances are met, and that acceptable installation practices have been followed.
* Boiler operators should be provided with a boiler log book for recording all daily events, and a preventive maintenance program scheduling regular daily, weekly, monthly, semiannual, and annual maintenance procedures to be performed to the boiler. The boiler procedures should include but not be limited to: repairs, replacements, inspections, cleaning, lubrication, and fuel and combustion testing to be done periodically.
To get the best results from a boiler log book, it should be tailored to your department's physical plant equipment. This can be accomplished by either the person responsible for the maintenance of boilers, or can be developed by a qualified boiler consultant.
* Provide appropriate training and operating procedures to boiler operators. Record events regarding a boiler's operation, including:
1. Any unsafe condition.
2. Boiler operating problems.
3. Equipment failures.
4. Fuel problems.
5. Boiler PMs done correctly and on schedule.
6. Daily problems observed and corrected on the boiler and systems, as well as notifications of higher management.
* Ensure that boilers are operated at slightly less than design pressure on those burners equipped with full modulation fuel controller. (See "Pressure Points," at left.)
These boiler safety facts are just a start toward a safe and healthy boiler program. Facilities and physical plant managers should investigate the boiler room procedures such as chemical cleaning, water treatment, corrosion control in steam and return lines, energy conservation, boiler combustion efficiency, and other boiler safety topics through continuous training both for managers and employees.
Facilities and physical plant managers should ensure that boilers are operated at slightly less than design pressure on those burners equipped with a full modulation fuel controller.
The operating pressure controller must return the burner to low fire before a burner shutdown. If this does not occur, check the operating pressure controller and high-pressure-limit switch for proper settings. A high-pressure-limit switch setting lower than the maximum operating pressure controller setting will cause a full modulation controlled burner to shut down on high fire. Safety valves must be set at design pressure by code and law.
For proper safety valve seating and leak prevention, boilers should always be operated at slightly less than the pressure at which the safety valve will engage. Consult with a boiler expert for the proper safety valve settings. Never start up a new boiler or operate one with which employees are unfamiliar or untrained, without first checking the water level, and the steam safety relief valve for proper pressure setting and relieving capacity.
Terry E. Walton, president of the Canby, OR-based Facility Management Consulting Services, is a certified licensed low/high-pressure boiler and turbine engineer.